The Colorado Magazine is a publication for all Coloradans. In these pages, we’ll document, explore, and share the experiences that join us together as Coloradans, bringing you compelling original scholarship, insights, and perspectives on how we got to now. We welcome you along on the journey.
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In preparation for Colorado Day on August 1, we asked each member of the State Historian’s Council to reflect on what “our beloved Colorado” means to them. Here, William Wei reflects on the journey that brought him to Colorado.
In the far south of Colorado, near the border with New Mexico, there is a distinctive range of tall, flat-topped mesas that stretch from northwest to southeast like the reaching arm of the Sangre de Cristo range. The highest of these mesas is striking against the sky—at 9,633 feet, it is higher than any point in North America east of it. It rises from the surrounding forest like a castle, steep-walled and prominent, and for millions of years it has loomed large over the valley below.
Fishers Peak is one of the most recognizable landmarks in southern Colorado, and has been for centuries.
When parents head to the trail with young children, they often equip themselves with child carriers to ease the way. Back in the 1960s, a Colorado-based outdoor company helped to commercialize the backpacks—with forward-facing seats for children and hip-belts for adults—so common today.
When I was twenty I backpacked through Europe. Riding home from Denver International Airport, disheveled and disillusioned, I didn’t want my adventure to be over. I was a discoverer. An explorer. Someone who appreciated all the world had to offer, and wanted to know everything immediately.
Growing up in Denver, I defended it against people from larger cities. For all my big words defending Denver’s virtue, I’d never treated my hometown as a backpacker arriving in the train station. Surely my town, the city I’d vouch for over any other, had a lot to offer—and it did.
I wanted to see Denver through fresh eyes, explore it like I would a city whose name I can’t pronounce. With this blog, I get that chance. So let’s go.
PRIDE Month is an annual celebration for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community. The LGBTQ+ community has always had a presence in Denver and Colorado. During the mid-twentieth century, people in the LGBTQ+ community lived in a world that did not accept who they were as individuals. These individuals experienced constant fear of exposure. They feared the police because of police brutality, harassment, and arrest. They feared the media because their names, addresses, and jobs would be published in the newspaper if they were arrested by the police. They feared the loss of friends, family, jobs, housing, and livelihood if they were exposed as being LGBTQ+. These fears, for many in the community, still exist and are experienced today.
Standing in the bleachers, you’re embraced by towering red sandstone monoliths on each side. You’re encircled by a starry sky. And just above the stage is a twinkling panorama of the Mile High City. The music is secondary. But then the band takes the stage, and you remember why you’re there. Music echoes through the canyon. You hug your friends nearby, and settle in for (no matter how many times you’ve done it) a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nine thousand cheering faces all on the same wavelength, all feeling the same energy coursing through their bodies. There’s nothing quite like a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It’s easy to see why John Denver loved this place. There’s no other venue that so effectively merged his two passions: music and nature.
Trinidad, Colorado, is a small and relatively quiet community. It has a long history of mining and entrepreneurship, evident in the stately Victorian-era buildings of its historic district, but in the latter half of the twentieth century it became world-famous for a reason that few at the time would have expected. For more than forty years, “going to Trinidad” became slang for undergoing gender confirmation surgery, and this otherwise quiet and previously little-known Colorado town found itself on the map, not just in the United States but the world over.
This story begins with one man doing a service, an act of kindness that at the time was controversial and even dangerous, for a friend.